Russian, Western Diplomats Clash at G-20 Gathering in Bali

NUSA DUA, Indonesia — A gathering of top diplomats from leading world economies descended into acrimony Friday as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov walked out of a meeting early in the day and accused Western nations of using the platform to target Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

“There is only frenzied Russophobia,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting that was attended by foreign ministers of the Group of 20 nations. “This is obvious,” he said.

US and European officials focused their remarks on the global effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including sharply higher global energy and food prices. Western governments have said that Russia has effectively blockaded Ukrainian ports, obstructing Ukrainian grain from making it out to global markets that need it.

“Unfortunately, tragically, many of the challenges the world faces that are having an impact on people’s lives — particularly when it comes to food, energy — these challenges have been dramatically exacerbated by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

The diplomatic awkwardness emerged on Indonesia’s scenic island of Bali after the country’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, who is hosting the gathering, said the day’s first session would focus on multilateralism, that is, the process of many countries working together. Instead, officials watched as Mr. Lavrov walked out during the remarks of German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, according to Western officials familiar with the meeting.

“We can’t deny that it has become more difficult for the world to sit together,” said Ms. Marsudi.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts and other officials in Nusa Dua, Indonesia.


Stefani Reynolds / Associated Press

Mr. Lavrov also left a second meeting — one on global food security — before Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba addressed the group via video link, Western officials said. In his remarks during that session, Mr. Blinken addressed Russia, saying: “Ukraine is not your country. Its grain is not your grain. Why are you blocking the ports? You should let the grain out. ”

The G-20 gathering is unlikely to come out with a blueprint or joint statement on energy, food security or other pressing issues, officials say. It won’t include a customary group photograph of the visiting diplomats.

While the war in Ukraine has upended the global supply of grain, a WSJ investigation reveals how Russia has quietly institutionalized the theft of hundreds of thousands of metric tons of it out of newly occupied areas of Ukraine and into Russian-allied countries in the Middle East. . Photo illustration: Adele Morgan

A senior State Department official said their goal was to “make Russia’s responsibility clear” and show that it cannot be “business as usual” in multilateral forums. Western officials blame Russia’s invasion, seizure of ports, destruction of grain infrastructure and effective blockade for slowing exports of corn and wheat from Ukraine.

Moscow says Ukraine is free to export its grain, but hasn’t specified how shipments can be achieved. Mr. Lavrov said Friday that Moscow is ready to negotiate with Ukraine and Turkey on the grain movement, following up on a push by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. It isn’t clear when such talks might take place.

The Russian foreign minister, who is subject to US sanctions, said that the food and energy crises predate what Moscow calls its special military operation in Ukraine that began in February. He blamed US and Western policies for the increase in prices.

Mr. Lavrov met with his Brazilian, Indian and Argentine counterparts in Bali, according to Russia’s Foreign Ministry. Moscow has preserved its longstanding ties with some large emerging economies and other countries that aren’t aligned with the US or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In her remarks Friday, Ms. Marsudi, the Indonesian foreign minister, said, “It is our responsibility to end the war sooner rather than later and settle our differences at the negotiating table, not at the battlefield.” She didn’t mention Russia by name.

Write to William Mauldin at

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